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In Mind Your Language Video I see.

Office: What is your name?

Ali: What is not my name? What is not here?

Office: Who is not here?

Ali: Mr What....

So: What is your name? = Your name is Mr What?

Who is not here? = Mr Who is not here?

Mr What is your name?

Or: Mr Who is not here?

It is correct?

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  • It looks to me like a joke. Ali thinks that he is being asked if his name is What. Oct 19, 2020 at 11:07
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    Oh dear. I believe that this question relates to a 1970s British TV sitcom called "Mind Your Language", set in a EFL class in a London college. It is deplored these days as containing crude stereotypes and being racist and demeaning to foreigners; it contains "funny" portrayals of broken English, misunderstandings, etc, as in the OP's question. Also there is a "funny" deaf caretaker. The episodes are on Youtube. Oddly enough I recently read an article in a UK newspaper saying that many Syrians watch them avidly, think they are very funny, have learned all the catch-phrases, etc. Oct 19, 2020 at 12:03
  • I just checked a few moments of the start of the first episode on Youtube and it is every bit as bad as I thought. Oct 19, 2020 at 12:06
  • Michael Grade cancelled the show when he became controller of London Weekend Television, as he considered it racist, but Wikipedia says that the show went down a bomb in countries including Pakistan, India, Nigeria, which were being lampooned. Perhaps it is like Fawlty Towers, where Manuel was made to be Yugoslav when the show was broadcast in Spain - everybody thinks "foreigners" are funny? Oct 19, 2020 at 12:14
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    In happens that Watt is a surname in UK, but you can't see that in spoken dialogue. Oct 19, 2020 at 12:41

1 Answer 1

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A person has a name. Although a name identifies a person, a person is not a name themself.

We would ask:

  • What is your name?

OR

  • Who are you?

In your example, it seems the person has not heard a name properly and is asking for it to be repeated. "What" is how you would ask for a name, so "Mr what?" is correct, although some would consider that manner of asking to be impolite.


You also asked if we could ask:

  • David is your name?

  • David is not here?

The answer to this is not so straightforward.

As opening questions, these would not be acceptable. Aside from the question marks, those are written a statements, not questions. We would instead ask:

  • Is David your name?
  • Is David here?

However, sometimes we repeat back a statement in the form of a question when seeing clarification. In that circumstance, you may hear your examples as written. For example.

-Is David here?
-No, David is not here.
-David is not here?
-That's what I said.

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  • Can we ask: David is your name? David is not here? Oct 19, 2020 at 11:01
  • @HồngVănVít I've added this to my answer.
    – Astralbee
    Oct 19, 2020 at 11:10
  • @Hồng Văn Vít: You should note that syntactically speaking, David is your name and David is not here are not questions. They are statements. Native speakers sometimes use such statements as questions (the fact that it's intended as a question rather than a statement is indicated be the "rising intonation"), but actually it's more often something that non-native speakers do. Native speakers normally reverse the subject & verb when forming questions: Is David your name?, Is David not here? Oct 19, 2020 at 12:35
  • What you say is true but misses the fact that this dialogue is intended to be funny and mock Ali, at least to my eyes, so perhaps worth mentioning that to help the OP further.
    – mdewey
    Oct 19, 2020 at 14:23

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